Social prescription arts project helps lift people out of Covid isolation and Picasso painting in Cornwall

Some participants and social influencers involved in the Newlyn Arts Gallery and the art project of Exchange’s What Lies Behind with James Green, director of Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange (Image: Olivier Vergnault / Cornwall Live)

An art project has brought together a group of elderly residents of West Cornwall after more than a year of isolation from Covid and now works of art from some of the world’s most famous artists are arriving in Cornwall as a result.

Residents of Penzance, Newlyn, St Just and Pendeen in Cornwall worked with the Newlyn Art Gallery and the Exchange to organize their latest exhibition called What Lies Behind.

The project saw participants browse the 8,000 objects in the Arts Council’s collection to choose the pieces they wanted to bring to the Duchy.

But more than choosing a Picasso, Moore, or Burman, the project showed the benefits the arts can have on people’s well-being and mental health.

As part of the social prescribing program, 10 participants, referred to the project by liaison workers at local GP practices, first met on Zoom calls during the first and second blockages last year before. to come together to choose pieces that reflected their personal responses to the pandemic and their hopes. and dreams for the future.

“This project aimed to promote mental health and well-being that cannot be corrected by a pill or surgery,” said social prescriber Sylvia Penhaligon when we met with participants over coffee in the cafe. -garden of the Newlyn Arts Gallery.

Another social advisor, Ellie Moseley, said that while participants first joined the project for the opportunity to get involved in an art project, it turned into a lifeline for health. mentality for all, made them active again, brought them together both virtually and physically and gave them their confidence. back after feeling isolated and alone during the pandemic.

Derrick Greaves, Dog, 1955 (Image: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Center, London © Derrick Greaves, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London)

Wendy Dennan of Penzance chose ‘Dog’, the 1955 painting by Derrick Greaves. The avowed extrovert and former arts teacher, said that throughout her life she had always felt rejuvenated in contact with other people.

When Covid struck, Wendy, who has always had a love for the sea, suddenly felt unable to indulge her two passions to share her love of the arts with young people and be in or on the sea.

Recovering from knee surgery, she could no longer swim or row and locked herself in with only her Irish setter Orlando as a companion.

“I spent 14 months alone,” she says. “I was home alone with my dog. I became very depressed. I did not know how to play the piano or paint. I lost all confidence in myself. This project has been a lifeline for me. The first Zoom meeting was so awesome but scary too. It was again like a first contact with people. This project was the thing that got me going. Suddenly I got involved in the arts, discussing works of art with other people. Being with others and having that human touch again was huge. “

She added, “The dog painting was so important to me because my only companion all this time was my own dog. Without my dog, I wouldn’t have gone through all of this.

Joan Carne, from Pendeen, was referred to the project by her own GP. She said during the pandemic her health deteriorated to the point that she ended up living as a recluse. Then suddenly she got involved in the art project, seeing others and learning new things again.

“I had no idea of ​​the arts,” she said. “But now I talk about it too much. The paintings make me happy and learning more about the background and history of these paintings has been fascinating. It opened my mind and I’m using my gray cells again which is awesome.

Abigail Reynolds, Universal Now: St Michael’s Mount 1928 | 1949, 2020, (Image: Collection of the Arts Council, Southbank Center, London)

According to recent figures, participatory art has been shown to help reduce walk-in GP visits and hospital admission rates by 37% and 27% respectively.

James Green, director of the Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange, said the gallery is working with various community groups including LGBTQ + youth, Black Voice Cornwall and Wild Young Parents to give a voice through the arts to people who traditionally have no implications. with that.

He said: “Of course, participating in cultural activities can make people happier and more satisfied. Our involvement in the Arts Council’s National Collection Partners Program has given us the resources and support to explore these benefits, hopefully paving the way for galleries and public collections to alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS as it continues to fight the consequences of the pandemic. “

What Lies Behind includes textiles, sculptures, installations, photographs, prints, paintings and collages by Chila Burman, Derrick Greaves, Nerys Johnson, Bryan Kneale, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Abigail Reynolds and Edward Weston.

Judith Parkin, from Newlyn, was also referred to the project by her GP after feeling the isolating effects of the pandemic.

“I was struggling with health issues,” she said. “I ran art workshops and for years worked on the graduation banners for Golowan. This project plunged me back into all that.

“It was so interesting to choose the works. I spent a lot of time on each one, trying to find out a little more. I discovered so much about the arts and the artists. It really opened them up to me. eyes at a time when I felt so much despair.

What Lies Behind will take place at the Newlyn Arts Gallery and The Exchange from October 23, 2021 to January 8, 2022.

To find out more visit https://newlynartgallery.co.uk/whats-on/

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